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Helen M. Stummer is the author of No Easy Walk, Newark, 1980-1993, published by Temple University Press. The book depicts the suburbanites' journey into the impoverished inner city, records her interaction with the residents, and celebrates the human spirit as well as the despair. The book answers two of the most asked questions from outsiders: "Why are people poor?" and "What happened to Newark?" Jonathan Kozol, in 1994, wrote, "... I hope the book is widely read."
Along with meaningful and compassionate photographs, Stummer has provided a brief history of Newark, highlighting its early strengths and clearly itemizing the steps along its decay. David L. Ames, Professor of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, University of Delaware, stated, “[Stummer’s] pictures and text give a sense of the reality of a central city ghetto that is unique—students have a hard time with it, which is good.”
For over twenty-five years, as a Visual Sociologist, Stummer has been photographing the struggles and dignity of poor people in Newark, NJ., the Lower East Side of Manhattan, rural Maine, and in Comalapa, Guatemala. Although geographically diverse, they speak the same language. It is the language of the streets, the subsistence farms, the aldeas. It is the mother tongue of oppressed people everywhere... Poverty.
Stummer photographs in the tradition of Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange—who dynamically and passionately photographed impoverished immigrants, child labor and migrant workers from the 1800’s through the 1950’s.
Because of her decades being involved with urban families, Stummer is unique among American photographers. Her commitment has allowed her to depict children growing up. From babies to young adults, she captures their spirit, their hopes, as well as their disappointments and tragedies.